There was a whole lot more than happened in Tuesday’s game against the Blazers than these two moments, but I can’t shake that they were maybe the most important.
With 2:56 left in the first quarter and the Thunder down 20-8, Derek Fisher stepped into a 3 from straightaway, smoothly drilling it. Almost identical to the 3 that he hit in Miami that loosened the Thunder up, OKC went on a 33-19 run after that to eventually take a 41-39 lead in the second half, digging out of a miserably slow start.
With 7:46 left left in the fourth quarter and the Thunder down 84-80, having gone the first four minutes of the fourth without a point, Fisher splashed another 3 from straightaway downtown, opening up the basket for OKC again. After that 3, the Thunder scored four more quick points to go up three, and sort of reclaim control of wild, emotional game.
Now, did Fisher’s two shots decide a three-point, 98-95 Thunder win to even the season series against Portland 2-2? Of course not. Because Kevin Durant had 36, Jeremy Lamb poured in 19, Reggie Jackson scored all 17 of his points in the second half, and OKC’s defense was sturdy and stout all night long. To me though, those two plays stand out. There’s no denying the fact that when the Thunder have needed something, Derek Fisher often provides an answer.
But again, those were just two isolated plays in an otherwise rollercoaster, up-and-down 48-minute ride that resulted in what feels like an improbable Thunder win. With 3:30 left and the game tied 91-91, it was obvious what OKC’s plan was — Kevin Durant needed to Kevin Durant. But with eight turnovers for his name, and a some misses in the fourth already, if OKC had any ideas of winning, someone else was going to have to make a shot, or two. Jackson answered the call first with a twisting layup to tie the game back up, 93-93. Then Lamb canned what ended up being the game-winner, a quickfire corner 3 to put the Thunder ahead 96-95 with 1:38 remaining.
Then it was about stops, and the Thunder got them in bunches. They held the Blazers to 37.6 percent from the field, which including just 12 from LaMarcus Aldridge on 5-22 shooting. He had a look to win it with a couple seconds left, but after a scoreless, 0-9 second half, that one wasn’t dropping.
Remember: This was the best offense in basketball coming in. And the Thunder held them to a 94.2 offensive rating, which is the only thing that kept them alive after an uncomfortable first half where Durant was the only starter to make a bucket. This was just a nasty, gritty, tough win for the Thunder, one where they had to overcome some external factors (*cough*) to end up on top. Durant was great — 36 on 15-28 is never anything but great — but he wasn’t in that kind of Kill ‘Em All mode late in the fourth that iced the Blazers the last time. It was more about the Thunder engineering points, and hanging on for dear life on the defensive end. On the road against the West’s third best record, you’ll take that every day.
Really, though it feels like the Thunder kind of lucked into one. There are a lot of reasons they maybe should’ve lost this one, and I still kind of can’t believe they didn’t. The way I look at it is that the Thunder got back the game they shouldn’t have lost in Orlando. And really, this is the one you’d rather win of the two anyway.
- Underrated on OKC’s second-to-last stop: Thabo made an excellent play to knock the ball out of Lillard’s hands. The ball was falling to Lillard for a second opportunity, but Thabo reached in at the last moment and poked it away to Jackson. Those are the type of plays Thabo just has a knack for.
- Aldridge and Lillard combined in the second half: 1-17.
- We’ve seen so much from Durant lately, carrying his team in almost every way, and while his 36 was obviously integral, like I said, it was the shots Fisher, Lamb and Jackson hit. Lamb especially, who went 8-11 and snapped out of his February funk, notching his first double-figure game of the month.
- There seems to be some debate on if that was good defense by Perk on Aldridge’s last shot. Was it? I don’t know. And who really cares? He bit on the pump fake, yes, but did a good job of avoiding any kind of foul. He got back to give a mild contest, but the fact is, it was a pretty good look for Aldridge. Hitting shots after resetting on a pump isn’t easy, but the Blazers probably are happy with the look.
- The player I feared most on Portland’s last possession wasn’t Aldridge at all. Not because he was having an off night, but because in late game situations, he consistently settles for difficult, contested, midrange 2-pointers. And they are rarely off any action, but often manifested from back-to-the-basket isolation. And in playing the percentages, I was going to live with that shot from Aldridge, and pray Lillard didn’t rock Reggie Jackson back for a fadeaway jumper, or find Wes Matthews in the corner.
- KD on the matchup with the Blazers: “We didn’t have our point guard for three of them. We didn’t have our whole team for three of them. And I think we held our own. We respect this team and they respect us. But we don’t like them and they don’t like us. That’s point blank.”
- Durant’s eight turnovers could’ve been avoidable for the most part. Some were just being loose with the ball, a couple were forced, and a couple were just dumb.
- Interesting question: Should Jackson have missed his second free throw with 0.6 seconds left? I kind of think so. It would’ve left OKC up 97-95 with probably something like 0.2 or 0.3 on the clock once Portland got the ball and called timeout. Which technically isn’t enough time to get anything but a tip.
- Not going to touch it, but this is a statistic from the game: The Blazers attempted 27 free throws to OKC’s 12, and had 14 fouls called on them to OKC’s 22.
- The first half was pretty incredible for the starting five. Durant had 18, Thabo had two. The rest of the five had zero, on 0-11 shooting. Ibaka was 0-3 for zero points, two rebounds, zero blocks and three fouls. Jackson was 0-6. The first non-Durant bucket by the starting five didn’t come until Ibaka hit a corner 3 about three minutes into the third. And the Thunder won this game, somehow.
- Ibaka’s second half: seven points, nine rebounds, two blocks. He finished with seven points and 11 boards, but certainly had a major impact on the game.
- Nick Collison provided a nice first half spark, going 4-4 for nine points in just a few minutes of work. It prompted me to look up his career high. It’s 29! With 21 rebounds in that same game! In 2007.
- That game just felt heated, didn’t it?
- That said, why is there an insistence to ask players after a tight game if there was a “playoff feel” to it?I don’t really understand the point, even if they say, “Yeah, it totally felt like the playoffs.” Does that like validate that the game was good, or something? I just don’t understand.
- Perry Jones played five minutes. I honestly don’t remember a second of it.
- Last time KD got a tech against the Blazers, he scored 11 in the final four minutes on 5-5 shooting. When he picked up one in the first quarter, I expected him to score 90 on 30-30 shooting.
- Durant flirted with getting tossed a few times, though. After picking up his fourth foul late in the third, he went pretty hard after the officials about it. A lot of other players probably would’ve been given the second whistle for that.
- On Durant’s tech, he picked it up after a Batum flop. And he also had something interesting to say to Batum. It rhymed with itch bass brothertrucker.
- Here’s what I don’t understand with Batum’s flopping: He’s always guarded KD off the ball by mostly just wrapping him up. And then to get separation, KD will get a little annoyed and give a push. Then Batum flops. So why are officials awarding Batum for his flop, and ignoring the fact he’s basically form tackling Durant?
- Speaking of techs: Scott Brooks got one in the first quarter. And Serge Ibaka picked a critical one up with 2:26 left in the fourth. Really dumb by Ibaka, but he had reason to be upset, because he blocked Matthews clean.
- Jeremy Lamb not taking McCollum’s hand scored him 20 Russell Westbrook Badass Points.
- McCollum is going to be a nice player, though. He looks like he could be a playoff X-factor. Can knock down shots and has a smooth offensive game.
- The box score says the Blazers had 13 offensive rebounds. Really thought it was 33. Or more. Felt like Robin Lopez had 30 on his own.
- Found it interesting the Blazers started Batum on Jackson and Matthews on Durant. I guess the reasoning was to try and limit Jackson, because they knew Durant would torch whoever they put on him anyway.
- The Thunder are now 21-8 without Westbrook, and 21-4 with. It’s amazing what these guys have done without one of the six or seven best players in the league. Incredible. We’re taking these wins for granted, I think. This is just outstanding stuff.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Reggie Jackson is having him a plate full of chicken sandwiches!”
Next up: Thursday at the Lakers